Anxiety as meat poisoning scare hits South Africa

BSIP  UIG                       Listeria denitrificans viewed under SEM. Magnification 10000x

On Sunday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the source of listeriosis, which has claimed at least 180 lives, has been found in Polokwane and Germiston.

Companies identified as being responsible for producing contaminated food that has caused the worst outbreak of listeria in South Africa have reported millions in losses, especially Enterprise Food, which belongs to the company Tiger.

Both companies, which say they are cooperating with the authorities, suspended processed meat production at their plants after health authorities ordered a recall of cold meats associated with the outbreak from outlets at home and overseas.

The fact that the listeria bacteria was present in the meat plants that had now been shut down implied that they did not take effective measures to monitor the processes when the outbreak was made public months ago, according to Marie van der Merwe, acting chairperson of the South African National Consumer Union (SANCU).

This announcement went viral and this morning major supermarkets recalled certain processed meat products country-wide.

At this point in time, MacDougall said he could not confirm what the financial implications to the group would be, but did say that "the cost of withdrawal (of products) out of all the market is at a high expense".

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The share price of Tiger Brands, a food retailer, manufacturer and producer of a number of food brands, including cold meats, has fallen 7.4%, to R393 a share on Monday, as at 16:51.

"Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from over 30 percent of the environmental samples collected from this site, which happens to be the Enterprise factory in Polokwane", Motsoaledi said. Rhodes Food, RCL Foods and Astral Foods each have less than 5 percent.

Enterprise-branded products accounted for 28.2 percent of processed meat sales in South Africa in 2017.

The authorities are also examining a second Tiger Brands factory and have not said when they could conclude tests on RCL Foods, which has a plant under investigation. Astral said it produced fresh and frozen chicken, not polonies and items linked to the outbreak.

Woolworths supermarket has urged its customers to return any cold meat products bought from the store for a refund.

The company was also recalling all its polony brands.


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